As we approach December and all things associated with red and green, it’s time to especially start thinking about the green — namely the Christmas tree.
If you’re thinking about cutting your own tree this year, get your plan and your permit NOW! It’s a very small window for cutting opportunities, especially on national and state forest lands.
Cutting your own Christmas tree can be an enjoyable experience for the entire family. Terms and conditions for cutting Christmas trees will be given to you when you purchase your permit.
Every Kid Outdoors initiative is offering one free Christmas tree permit to fourth- and fifth-graders who have a valid Interagency Pass. These free Christmas tree permits are only available at U.S. Forest Service District offices.
There are now a handful U.S. Forest Services sites along the Front Range that offer tree cutting throughout December. In some locations, there is a small window so don’t delay. In addition, the Creekside Nursery in Niwot offers an “almost” tree cutting experience that’s a little closer to home.
Taking a drive up to the Sulphur Ranger District to cut a tree has been a tradition for many Colorado families. Most everyone combines the tree cutting with other activities in the area whether it’s skiing, tubing or snowmobiling.
Due to the Cameron Peak, Williams Fork and East Troublesome Fires, tree cutting opportunities have changed. Christmas tree cutting will only be permitted on National Forest system lands on the Sulphur Ranger District of Grand County and the Canyon Lakes Ranger District of Larimer County. Check before you go to see what areas are closed to tree cutting. Weekday cutting is encouraged to avoid the larger weekend crowds. View a map of Elk Creek Cutting Area.
Your $20 permit allows you to cut a Christmas tree from designated areas on the Sulphur Ranger District now through January 6. Be sure to reference the map to ensure you are in a location where cutting is allowed. Most roads will be closed to motor vehicles but snowmobiles or skis may be used to access most areas. See a map of cutting areas within the Sulphur Ranger District .
Canyon Lakes tree cutting is open November 25th – January 7th.
Buy your permits in advance, $20 per tree. No permits will be available for purchase at the gates of the cutting area! Permits are available seven days a week beginning Nov. 23 at Murdoch’s (Fraser), Grand Lake Visitor’s Center, Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, Fireside Market & Eatery (Winter Park), and Granby Country Ace Hardware.
You may also buy a permit online at recreation.gov. Make sure you print the permit ahead of time and have it visible on the dashboard of your vehicle.
Online sales are available now! Visit recreation.gov to purchase your permit.
Permits are also available for purchase at the South Park Ranger District office or by mail-in request. For mail-in, fill out our FORM and send check or money order (marked “Christmas Trees”), payable to USFS for $20 per tree. We will mail the permit(s) out to you and you can cut your tree at your convenience during the allotted dates. Permits must be purchase in advance. There are no on-site sales.
Cost is $20.00 per permit/tree plus a processing fee and there is a maximum of five trees per household. Trees must be for personal use only and not for resale.
Permits are non-refundable
Holiday Tree cutting is allowed throughout the South Park Ranger District, with the exception of a few restricted areas. Please print off the map for the area you will be visiting. Also, there are maps of suggested areas based on tree species, accessibility and size, available.
The Pikes Peak Ranger District will be offering Christmas tree cutting permits online only from Friday, November 26th – Wednesday, December 15th.
Permits are $20.00 per tree, with a limit of 5 permits per person. Be sure you are purchasing a permit for the Pikes Peak Ranger District and ensure you print your permit, map and cutting information from the website.
Conifer (evergreen) trees of various species may be cut as Christmas trees, including Douglas-fir, Ponderosa pine, Engelmann spruce, and Limber pine. The trees are native and are not as full (or formed as well) as trees grown on a plantation and found in commercial lots. Be aware that some Douglas fir trees have been damaged by Western Spruce Budworm.
Trees may be cut on National Forest System lands northwest of Woodland Park, Colorado in the North Divide area and northwest of Woodland Park off Forest Service Roads 339 and 342. Be sure to print the map when you purchase your permit and use it to navigate to the tree cutting areas. Signs will be posted.
Four-wheel drive vehicles or chains are recommended. Roads may not be plowed, and road accessibility will not be guaranteed. Follow all motor vehicle regulations and postings. Park only one vehicle length off the main road and be sure you are not blocking traffic on the road.
The South Platte Ranger District is happy to once again provide a Christmas tree cutting experience to the public from Nov. 27 -Dec. 13. Purchase your permit online and ahead of time at Recreation.gov. Check out the following locations to find your perfect tree.
Buffalo Creek: Buffalo Creek experiences snow that results in icy, snowpacked roads. Visitors will need a 4-wheel drive vehicle, shovels, sand, and tow straps in case of emergency. Take Hwy 285 to Pine Junction, turn left onto County Rd 126 and drive for about 12 miles. Visitors can meet Smokey Bear in this location on weekends. There is private land within the Buffalo Creek areas in the South Platte Ranger District boundary. Trees must be cut on National Forest Service land and it is the permittees’ responsibility to make sure they are on National Forest.
Camp Fickes: There are no camping, no trailers or picnics allowed within the cutting area. High clearance 4-wheel drive capable vehicles are required for access. This area is at the end of Forest Service Rd 550.
Sugar Creek This area is located along Douglas County Road 67, approximately 1.5 miles south of the Sprucewood/County Road 40 junction. The area is best accessed from Sedalia, CO off Hwy 85 (Sante Fe).
Since many of the most popular fir tree varieties do not successfully grow in Colorado, they must be trucked-in from other states. Creekside Tree Nursery selects reputable growers in both North Carolina and Oregon for these non-Colorado grown trees. With that said, the nursery brings in pre-cut trees to “plant” into our growing fields solely for the “experience” of cutting them down. If you were to dig the trees up, you are correct, there would not be a root ball as they are not “growing” there; however, they are still freshly cut and will survive well through Christmas.
So some may wonder “what’s the point?” if it’s technically already cut? Well, because it’s fun, it’s closer than driving to the mountains, it’s still a “green” experience because for each tree cut a few more are planted in their place and you’ll enjoy a premium fir tree in your home.
“Cut your own tree experience” includes selecting the following firs: Fraser, Noble, Nordman, Douglas, Balsam, Grand, Canaan or Concolor, or Scotch or White pines. Prices range from $80-$650. Open November 2-December 23. Hours are Monday-Friday, 1-7 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sunday, 12-7 p.m. Creekside Tree Nursery offers all the following:
- A knowledgeable staff that is eager to help you pick the most wonderful Christmas Tree.
- Premium wrapping/netting to help you move your tree around with ease.
- They can fresh cut your tree for you.
- Monday through Thursday they offer professional loading by our sensational staff (not available on weekends). If you are in need of loading please visit them on the weekdays and we will be happy to help.
- Christmas lights, music, and decorations inside and out. Come at night and you can really enjoy the experience.
(Editor’s note: This blog was originally published in November of 2019. It has been updated to provide current information).